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What’s the Point? Americans Want Public Investments in R&D To Compete With China

What’s the Point? Americans Want Public Investments in R&D To Compete With China

Americans support congressional action on an innovation and competitiveness bill.

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A worker assembles the interior of a safe that is being manufactured at a factory.
A worker assembles the interior of a safe that is being manufactured at a factory in Payson, Utah, March 2022. (Getty/George Frey)

Congress has passed two bills to boost U.S. innovation and competitiveness: The Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) on a bipartisan basis, while the House of Representatives passed the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act (America COMPETES Act) on a party-line vote. The two bills are now headed for a Senate-House conference to produce a unified bill that both chambers of Congress can vote on.

The two pieces of legislation have much in common. A National Law Review article comparing the bills notes: “Both bills provide more than $50 billion in immediate funding for semiconductor production and research. Both bills also authorize more than $200 billion in future efforts to develop key technology areas. And the bills include additional proposals to address supply chain issues and promote fair trade.”

There are also some differences, and the National Law Review article summarizes them well. But what’s key is that both bills contain many popular provisions that both are good policy and have strong public support, suggesting a solid basis for a unified bill that can garner bipartisan support.

On USICA, Data for Progress found high support levels for several provisions, of which the three most popular were: 1) expanding access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career pathways, with 72 percent support; 2) creating regional technology hubs to expand scientific progress, with 71 percent support; and 3) ramping up semiconductor production in the United States, with 69 percent support.

Figure 1

On the America COMPETES Act, Data for Progress also found strong support for many provisions. The three most popular were: 1) investing in research and development (R&D) for clean energy, with 75 percent support; 2) expanding educational outreach for women and minorities in STEM, with 74 percent support; and 3) providing pathways to citizenship for entrepreneurs, with 71 percent support.

Figure 2

What’s the point on innovation investments? There is clearly the basis here for Congress to craft a unified bill that would be very popular with the public while addressing a policy goal of great significance for America’s future. It’s time for Congress to act and get such a bill passed and onto President Joe Biden’s desk.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

John Halpin

Former Senior Fellow; Co-Director, Politics and Elections

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